Long time Thrive friends and recent national winners of the Telstra Small Business Award, Cargo Crew is a company on the rise. Run by sisters Felicity Rodgers and Narelle Craig with the operational nous of Felicity’s husband Paul, the Cargo Crew trio have revolutionised company uniforms by creating designs that staff love to wear.
Thrive caught up with Narelle to find out how a business that started with $2,000 from Felicity’s apartment in Melbourne, has managed to create an enviable client roster including McDonald’s, Merivale and Dulux.
Where did the idea behind Cargo Crew come from?
Felicity, my sister and business partner, is originally a fashion designer and had her own label. She recognised a gap in the market for cool, unique uniforms for businesses and it all started from that idea. L’oreal was one of our first clients. All our products were custom-made in Melbourne.
What makes Cargo Crew stand out from the crowd of other small businesses?
We stand out from our competitors because what we offer is unique and affordable. We have disrupted the uniform industry. The traditional uniform business model consists of large mass produced uniform wholesalers who sell directly to distributors who then on-sell to the end client. We design and manufacture our uniforms, dealing directly with clients and we take out the middle man. Our business is based on creativity and with this, we aren’t just a company producing uniforms, we have built a brand that helps other brands and businesses stand out from the crowd.
How do you stay up to date with the latest innovations and integrate them into your business?
The biggest thing for our business is staying on top of technologies that are going to make the day to day operations run as smoothly as possible. Even simple things like using new technology for our warehouse management, has enabled us to grow as a business and take Cargo Crew to the next level.
Technologies change so quickly, our ecommerce store which we only launched a few years ago, is already being updated to accommodate an international checkout. As a small business, you need to ensure that you stay abreast of all these up and coming innovations, so you don’t get left behind.
You were awarded the 2015 Telstra Victorian Small Business of the Year Award. What do you think is the key to running a successful small business?
Resilience is definitely an integral part of running a small business. Being able to bounce back and keep a positive attitude. Also, good people management definitely helps to run a successful small business.
I thinks what’s good with Felicity, Paul and I, is that our skills complement each other. Surrounding yourself with a strong team who have unique skillsets, ensures that all your bases are covered and everyone can focus on what they are good at.
What advice can you give to other small business owners?
To continue to evolve and not stand still. You should never get to a point and think ‘Yep, I’ve done that now’. You should always be thinking about what is next. Having the capacity to adapt to everything from changing consumer behaviours to new trends and technologies in your industry, helps you to stay ahead of others.
If we had continued to keep doing what we were doing a few years ago, Cargo Crew would be a very different business than it is today.